“Symbols of Canada” is a three-phase outreach initiative encouraging people to explore and (re)examine the origins and contested meanings of many of Canada’s most recognizable symbols. Scholars from across the country are combining their efforts in order to effectively engage Canadians in long-overdue conversations about the country’s past, present, and future.
Symbols play a crucial role in developing and sustaining national feeling and in defining who is, and is not, a welcome member of a national community. They can be powerful political tools or sought-after icons for tourists. Whatever form they take, they are ubiquitous short-hand reference points that communicate powerful and very specific conceptions of identity that frequently belie their complicated and contested origins.
Our goal is to help Canadians to better understand the historical and contemporary power relations that have elevated some understandings of the Canadian nation over others. We aim to do this in ways that encourage our readers and listeners to set aside commonsense assumptions about “peacekeeping,” “universal healthcare,” or “hockey” in order to better understand and appreciate factors and decisions that have shaped contemporary Canada, including settler colonialism, hierarchies of belonging, regionalism, English-Canadian nationalism, French-Canadian nationalism, and resource extraction.